Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary,
Education and Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary,
Homeschooling as an alternative form of education is chosen by more and
more families in Hungary. Although home education is a growing movement
in many countries, its situation is controversial in Hungary as we will
introduce it in the article. The first part of the paper describes the
Hungarian context of homeschooling and the status of private pupils,
and summarizes the key findings of the Hungarian researchers regarding
the topic. The second part presents a thematic analysis of blogs
answering the following questions: (1) What groups and patterns appear
in the Hungarian homeschooling discourse? (2) What groups can we find
among Hungarian homeschooling families and how do these groups differ
from each other? (3) Can we classify these groups into “pedagogical”
and “ideological” categories? To explore how homeschooling families
live and learn, 118 blog posts written by homeschooling mothers were
analyzed, using the method of thematic analysis. The analysis
identified the following themes in blogs: religiousness of
homeschoolers, the attitudes of society and schools towards
homeschooling, the methods of homeschooling, the attitude of parents
towards schools, and the social life of homeschoolers. The participants
in the research have chosen homeschooling because of religious reasons.
Parents write a lot about how their local environment responds to their
choice of keeping their child home. Parents teach their children at
home in different ways and they transform methods and contents they use
over time. Texts mention many areas of community life for children
(sports clubs, learning groups, Christian communities, etc.). Parents
attach great importance to organizing group activities among their
children. The results indicate the need for further research in the
field of homeschooling in Hungary.
homeschooling, home education, private student, thematic analysis,
In Hungary, the number of participants in home education has increased
in recent years, but we can hardly find any research in this area. As
it is difficult to understand these processes without being aware of
the educational and societal context, in the article we summarize the
Hungarian context of homeschooling including the controversial,
uncleared status of private pupils. We also look through and introduce
the available Hungarian literature on the topic.
The Context of Homeschooling in Hungary
Hungary is a post-communist country in Central Europe. Since 2003 it
has been a member of the European Union. It has 10 million inhabitants;
more than 1.5 million are in school age. Due to the population decline,
the number of students is decreasing continuously.
The Hungarian system of education follows the continental (German)
education model. Traditionally, it is strongly centralized; most of the
schools are maintained by the state. After the change of regime in
1989, state control decreased significantly in schools and the
maintenance of schools moved to local governments. Since 2011 the
right-wing government has implemented radical re-centralization in the
education system: schools maintained by local governments have (a) been
relinquished to state maintenance, (b) been forced to implement a
strong core mandatory curriculum for public schools, (c) restricted the
textbook market, and (d) introduced a mandatory external evaluation
system of schools (Hüse, 2018). Funding of institutions is provided by
the state with normative support, but the Hungarian public education
system is constantly underfinanced, resulting in a massive decrease of
the performance of the education system (Hajdu et al., 2018; OECD,
2015). Under-funding, strong public control, and poor performance
contribute to increasing interest among families in alternatives to
schooling for children (such as home schooling). Actually, the daily
school attendance is not compulsory, but students have to belong to
school as private students, in order to have the “homeschooled” status.
A “private student” is a student “who has legal relationship with the
school but who is exempted from daily attendance of classroom lessons,
and prepares her/himself individually for the required academic
obligations. The Public Education Act (1933) guarantees the possibility
for the students to be private students. Private students should
present their knowledge in a certain period, determined by the school,
and in a certain way determined by the teaching staff” (Báthory &
Falus, 1997, p. 383.) Usually, private students are required to take
their private exams in each semester or term.
Currently, Act CXC of 2011. on National Public Education regulates the
private student status. The relevant parts of this document are
“(5) Compulsory education may be completed by school attendance or, at
the request of parents, as a private student. It is provided that it
cannot be disadvantage of the successful continuation and completion of
the studies (Act CXC of 2011. on National Public Education, s 45(5),
(6) If the head teacher deems private student status disadvantageous to
complete their compulsory education, or a student may be expected not
to be able to complete her/his studies that s/he has begun as a private
student, they are obligated to inform the relevant government’s office,
within the residential district of the given child. Based on the
opinion of the office of public guardian and the child welfare service,
the responsible office makes the final decision on how the student
should complete the compulsory education. In the case of a multiply
disadvantaged children, the opinion of the child welfare service should
be obtained before the decision of the head teacher of the school is
made (Act CXC of 2011; on National Public Education, s 45(6), online).
Based on the currently available data, the number and proportion of
private students in the system are shown in Table 1.
The general practice of the families opting for home education is the
following: parents identify a suitable public or private school and
then require the private school status. In many cases, this step in
itself is already difficult because schools are often reluctant to
accept and receive private students, despite of the fact that it is
illegitimate if the school locates in the district where the family’s
residence is. The primary reason for this is that working with private
students is an additional burden for the staff of the institution. The
income of schools is mostly based on the number of students, and the
number of students in classes is regulated by law. Although private
students must be counted in the total number of the classes, the school
does not get any normative funding for them. It means that schools have
to provide the possibility of the exams for the private students after
each semester without proper funding. In addition, schools have strict
headcount limits, which also decreases their willingness to receive
private students. The head teacher makes the final decision on the
status, considering the views of the child welfare service and the
Private students in Hungary are categorized into four categories since
2011: (1) based on their own choice (over-mandatory); (2) based on the
proposal of the relevant expert and rehabilitation committee (physical,
sensory, mental, or other disability); (3) based on a specialist’s
recommendation; and (4) based on the requests of the parents (Hevér,
2012). The number of private students by parental request is recorded
annually by the Educational Authority. However, this number is unlikely
to indicate the actual number of pupils studying at “home school” and
the student’s private student status is a significantly broader group
than homeschoolers (Hevér, 2012; Ó-Nagy, 2001). It is mainly because
the private student status is a very problematic, unclear area in
Hungary. Twenty-six percent of private students who received the status
on the requests of the parents are disadvantaged and the proportion of
multiple disadvantaged students among them is 14.53%. (21, 74% of total
pupils are disadvantaged, and 7.83% of total pupils are multiple
disadvantaged in Hungary according to the Educational Authority, 2014).
These numbers show that pupils with special educational needs and
pupils with learning and behavior difficulties are highly
over-represented among private students. It has become a widespread
practice throughout the country, especially in smaller villages, that
pupils who are still in their school-ages are declared as private
students thanks to a mutual agreement between the school and the
parents. The reason of their decision is that the institution
classifies them as “problematic” and does not want to or cannot deal
with them (due to lack of capacity) (Hevér, 2012; Ó-Nagy, 2001). (The
recent transformation of the family allowance system has probably
caused a change in this area, but it cannot be proven in the absence of
adequate data.) These students usually end up loitering on the streets,
sometimes with deviant behavior. Because of this practice, education
and government try to tighten up the regulation of private student
status; therefore, home education becomes more difficult to practice.
In the light of the above, it may be worthwhile to identify and treat
homeschooling families under a different legal category and distinguish
them from other types of private students. This practice shows the
dysfunction of the Hungarian education system from several sides. On
the one hand, the system cannot deal with disadvantaged children. On
the other hand, parents are escaping from public school student
In Hungary, data collection and data service about education is
contradictory, not consistent. There are some areas where it is
continuous and transparent (e.g., in student performance management),
while there are areas with huge shortages, such as homeschooling. In
2014, the Ministry of Education issued a national report about private
students in Hungary (Educational Authority, 2014). This report is the
only one that can be related to home education. It is apparent. We know
from the report that as of 1st January 2015, there were 8,217 private
students in 1778 schools in Hungary. The most relevant part of the
report is about what the reasons of the request for private student
status are: (1) family circumstances, (2) health status, (3) age, (4)
long-term residence abroad, (5) difficulties with transportation going
to school, (6) conduct disorder, 7) sport/art talent, (8) social
conditions, (9) student employment, and (10) legal relationship with
another school (e.g., the student goes to a school maintained by a
foreign organization, but would like to have a Hungarian degree also).
Number of private students in the system.
School age population in Hungary
Number of Homeschooler students
Proportion of Homeschooler students
Homeschooling families rarely appear in the report and it does not identify
the number of them. The Educational Authority responded to our inquiry that
they were not able to provide more information for the public about this
topic. Despite the lack of official data and information, we can estimate
the number of homeschooling families. For certain, the modern home
education movement shows growing a tendency in Hungary. Imre Szőke, who
taught his children at home and set up an informal homeschooling community
15 years ago, told us that he estimated that there were 800-1000
homeschooling families in Hungary. With his leadership, the Hungarian
Homeschooling Association was registered this year with the aim to promote
homeschooling in the country.
There is much literature available on homeschooling. However, all the used
information is international, mainly U.S. research data (Benyovszky, 2013;
Berényi, 2002; Fóti, 2007; Jánossy, 2015; Klicka, 2008; Mészáros, 2015;
Mihály, 2006; Nágel).
Home Schooling: The Right Choice: An Academic, Historical, Practical,
and Legal Perspective
, written by Christopher J. Klicka (2001), is the only available book in
Hungarian. Despite the lack of publications on the subject, five theses
were published about homeschooling in the last few years. This fact in
itself shows that home education in Hungary is quite a new movement, and
more and more people are interested in this educational opportunity.
Viktória André (2006) and Zsuzsanna Szilágyiné Nágel (Szilágyiné, 2012)
conducted a questionnaire survey but their data is not representative.
Eszter Pásztor-Ambrusz (2012) deals specifically with the theoretical
possibilities of home education for children with mental disabilities, and
therefore does not contain relevant information for our own research. Gábor
Páll (2015) also inspired our research. He conducted an in-depth interview
with an unschooled child and her mother. His thesis deals with a special
group of homeschoolers: those who are participating at “Clonlara Off-Campus
Program”, an official assistance and evaluation program for homeschooler
Purpose of Study
The purpose of this research was to find out what groups and patterns of
homeschooling families are present in Hungary today. Our research questions
are the following: (1) What groups and patterns appear in the Hungarian
homeschooling discourse? (2) What groups can we find among Hungarian
homeschooling families and how do these groups differ from each other? (3)
Can we classify these groups into the “pedagogical” and “ideological”
Review of Literature
For the purpose of this study we reviewed international literature about
parental motivations and factors on the basis of which Hungarian
homeschoolers can be grouped. Ed Collom states that, as home education
became widespread, we can distinguish at least four categories according to
parental motivations: (1) ideological, (2) pedagogical, (3) general
dissatisfaction with public education, (4) family-related reasons, such as
health care or special educational needs (2005).
The main purpose of “ideologists” is to teach their beliefs, values, and
worldview for their children within the framework of home education.
Usually, they work with traditional textbooks and workbooks; they prefer to
take part in standardized testing and take the year-end results more
seriously than those who are in the “pedagogical” category (Taylor-Hugh,
2010). Romanowski (2006) writes that current pedagogical considerations are
also present in families who start homeschooling for mainly religious or
In the pedagogical category, parents are dissatisfied with public
education, or even the whole school system–its methods and effectiveness.
They are usually educators, education scholars, or personally interested in
educational methods. They are usually unschoolers; that is why they
organize the curriculum based on their children’s natural interests and
follow their curiosity. From a political point of view, they are usually
liberal, and they are willing to try different types of learning
The categories identified in the literature serve to develop the code of
blog posts and to interpret the results.
We can regard thematic analysis as one of the basic methods of qualitative
analysis. The thematic analysis method is used to identify, analyze, and
interpret patterns (themes) within a data set. Our own research is a
theory-driven thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The content of
our analysis was provided by blogs. According to Simmons, “Blogs or ‘web
logs’ are on-line diaries that allow people to post their thoughts on any
topic they choose” (Simmons) Over the past two decades, numerous
researchers have used blog analysis as their main method or as tools for
data collection (Huffaker & Calvert, 2005; Hookway, 2008; Snee, 2014;
Thelwall, 2007; Thelwall & Prawobo, 2007). We used the Weft QDA content
analysis software for our research.
Population and Sample
The target population included those homeschooling moms who live in Hungary
and write a blog about their experiences A small, relatively non-diverse
sample was inevitable, given the scope of this research. The blogs were
chosen from a list provided by the website www.otthonoktatas.info which
listed all Hungarian homeschooling blogs (the website has since been
discontinued. Last download: 2016.11.01). This website is not identified
specifically as Christian. In the time of research there was no
organization, forum, or event that could reach a broader population of
families and which could present greater diversity. Sampling was based on
the popularity of blogs. Based on the metrics, we selected the 3 most
popular blogs out of 12 for analysis. More detail on sampling can be found
in Noémi Eggendorfer’s thesis (Eggendorfer, 2016).
After exploring the theoretical background and developing the sampling, we
formulated the categories for coding. During the encoding, we worked with
both interpretative (literature-based) and descriptive codes and then we
put them into larger themes. The codes and their groupings can be found in
In the following we present the number of documents, passages, and
characters for each theme; then we introduce the most important results and
quotes related to them. The number of documents, passages, and characters
for each theme are given in Table 3.
The blogs’ interaction between author and reader is regular and frequent
in the form of comments. An average of 3.32 comments was received for the
All three blogger families were Christian in the sample. This value –
Christianity – is particularly emphasized by two authors; they use biblical
quotations in many cases to support their messages:
“When we decided for everybody to stay at home, we determined what our
purpose was: we wanted to live as a family, together and with God,
spending more time with joint activities because the school set us
apart from each other. God asked the parents, moreover, He commanded
them, “These commandments that I give you today are to be in your
hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at
home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you
get up.” (Deuteronomy 6: 6,7)” (o15)
As an additional value, the quality and quantity of time spent with the
family also appears:
“Since they have been studying at home, they have a much better
relationship with each other and with their mother and father. There is
time to be together and there is time to get away. There is a way to
laugh a lot and we can take the tears well. We have time to cook,
clean, study chores, and have time to read and relax. There is time to
go hiking, to see the world, and time to visit our loved ones, to get
new friends. (Ecclesiastes 3) “(o15)
Interpretative and Descriptive Codes Grouped by Themes.
Christianity; Other religion; Freedom and independence
Higher education; Private exams; Private student status
Attitude of society towards homeschooling; Attitude of host
Proceedings and methods
Textbooks, teaching aids; Methods; Methods of worldview
Using DIY technics in learning; Learning in summer;
Homeschooling at the age of 3-6; Consciousness in child-
Illness; Students with special education needs
Attitude of students towards homeschooling; Academic
achievement of students
Effects of homeschooling on parents; Attitude of parents
Socialization in schools
Socializing communities; Socialization in kindergarten;
Number of Documents, Passages, and Characters Within Themes.
Number of documents
Number of passages
Number of characters
External (social or educational) environment)
Proceedings and methods
External (social /educational) environment
The “External (social/educational) environment” theme was most represented
in the blogs. According to the bloggers, the attitude of the society
towards homeschooling in Hungary is not homogeneous: some people are
negative, others are more open. A blog post also indicates that negative
judgment is more typical from adults:
“… the majority of people are not open to the matter and judge us
that they are studying at home, while nobody is judging those who go to
school :). Anyway, kids never hurt Zs because she is a private student.
In their first conversation they say: “good for you”, and then there
are no more words about the topic. “(b7)
Authors also express that people in their environment have different views
and attitudes towards homeschooling. Acceptance and rejection can be found
at the same time, and also those who find home education dangerous.
Comments on the role of the school appear: that the school is responsible
solely for educating children.
The attitude of schools and teachers towards home education is also very
diverse. Blog posts show that parents face different reactions: some people
are simply not informed about home education, some are open, and there are
some who completely reject and oppose home education.
Lack of information among teachers and clerks is also discussed:
“I hope it helps many people in their decision (…) I also met teachers
who were not aware of how someone could be a private student. They
wondered and asked, “Are you a teacher?” “Are your children sick or top
athletes?” I also met a clerk at the child welfare service of the local
council, who thought (argued) that only the children of artists in the
traveling circuses were private students.”(o5)
The negative attitude:
“I met the head teacher of my daughter. She said that at the school
events how clever and prepared Zs was … and recognized her other
virtues which would be beneficial for any child. Then she asked which
school she went to. At that point she realized that Zs is homeschooled.
Then, she told me about twenty times that we “should send her back into
the community” although she recognized the virtues of Zs which,
according to the misbelieves, sticks to children in schools.” (b7)
Learning process and methods
According to blogs, homeschooling families used number of methods and
strived to work with a wide range of teaching aids. They were happy to
express their views on teaching methods, tools, procedures, and they
developed their own tools, such as the so-called “Pager.” A “pager” is a
few pages long, large-format book that helps children how to learn with new
cards and game packages.
“The system provided by the pager encourages children how to extend
their knowledge using different sources…” (b52)
One mother reported that they initially worked with traditional school
methods and tools but later they moved away from these and became more open
to new methods and tools. This phenomenon appears in the research of Gábor
Páll (2015), too.
“When we chose home education, we started learning about new
opportunities, and figured out how we would like to use them, we clung
to workbooks. After more than a year of reading and gaining experience
we moved away from this view. The workbooks are linked to the
educational form of school, so we could not imagine the education
process without them because we always used them before. We had to
recognize that homeschooling is not a school at home, but something
quite different.” (g6)
Homeschooling families in the sample study organize learning in different
places: libraries, museums and wildlife parks, too. They use variety of
teaching tools: methodological handbooks, classic literature, written
alphabet on the wall, creative tools for DIY projects, and websites are all
integral parts of everyday learning of the families.
All three families worked with at least one private teacher. Their private
teachers typically have pedagogical qualifications, but not all of them are
“A math-chemistry-physics teacher (…) Uncle J. is Gypsy, although he
does not seem to be (sic!), but he is not ashamed. At his age
thirty-five, he became ill, having spent a lot of time in hospitals,
and during the treatments he was reading a lot. For example, math
books. (…) He realized that he always loved it, but he did not deal
with it because of his life and work condition. He was so embarrassed
that at his age 39 (!) he started his university studies full-time
among young people. I cannot describe the peace he showed, I also
wanted to sit down there and learn from him. Somehow, he can transmit
his knowledge pragmatically and logically. He produces success stories
like in the movies: lazy, young people are beginning to be interested
in learning (…) And this man is unemployed. (…) He loves to teach,
he likes to see the results and the glittering eyes. “(o7)
Based on the parents’ posts the attitude of students toward home education
is very positive. They are willing to learn at home with their parents and
siblings. Their relationship to exams is quite positive, too.
“She never went to school. While she recognized that the school was
only about “10 minutes,” she sometimes asked when she becomes a
schoolgirl. Ever since she regularly meets with schoolchildren during
the afternoon sessions and has a realistic picture about the schools,
she does not ask for it anymore, but she says more and more often that
it is good that she can study at home. “(b8)
Social life of children
The “Social life of children” theme was most represented in the blogs.
Families participating in the research take part in several socializing
events in different environments on a regular basis: local kindergarten and
school events (e.g., harvest festival), playground, sports training,
visiting a wildlife park or a museum with other homeschooling families,
visiting friends, or participating in religious communities. Mothers are
keen to write their views and experiences on the socialization issue:
“I do not think that my kids need company, they are now surrounded by
in public institutions…
(…) They learn how to behave, eat, use the toilet, and adapt to
family members at home. A long time ago, when big families with many
generations lived together, it worked very well. The kids learned how
to cooperate with older ones, adapt to the slower, sometimes sick
family members, listen to tales, songs and most importantly they
experienced that the family is the strongest bond, where they always
have a place to return to.
…Remember, we always heard in our childhood at school that the school
was our second home. I hated it … I never felt at home in an
institution without truth and especially love. “(o2)
The following section describes the conclusions we have drawn from the
Although all three families are Christian, two families clearly belong to
the “ideological” category, while the third family often reports
pedagogical considerations, too. The main motivation of “ideologists” is to
share their beliefs, values, and worldview with their children within the
framework of home education. Usually, they use traditional textbooks and
workbooks; they prefer to take part in standardized testing and take the
year-end results more seriously than those who are in the “pedagogical”
category (Taylor-Hugh, 2010). Romanowsky (2006) writes that current
pedagogical considerations are also present in those families which start
homeschooling for mainly religious or ideological reasons. There were not
any families in the sample which chose homeschooling because of the
academic achievement of homeschoolers or because of dissatisfaction with
educational institutions. However, they often write about their school
critical thinking; therefore, we concluded that pedagogical considerations
have also played a role for them in choosing home education. It is an
interesting fact that all three families are Christian, and they also write
about their religiousness in the blogs. There are at least three possible
reasons for this: (1) sampling, (2), mainly those homeschooling mothers
write blogs who are religious, and (3) Christianity is very common between
Hungarian homeschooling families. Further studies are needed to explore the
Regarding the methods, we can conclude that Hungarian homeschooling mothers
in the sample frequently used tools and methods with reform-pedagogical
roots. Analyzing their blogs, it gives the impression that constructivist
pedagogy and self-regulated learning play more important role in their
children’s learning than in the case of students studying in the Hungarian
public schools, but further research is also needed here.
The average homeschooling child is not disadvantaged in socialization and
has an active life outside home, in sports clubs, art classes, or during
volunteering or scouting activities (Ray, 1997, cited by Romanowsky, 2006).
Hungarian children participating in the research also take part in
different activities and communities.
In our research, we analyzed the blogs of Hungarian homeschooling mothers
using the thematic analysis method. The strength of our research is that
both the subject and the method are quite unique, especially in the
Hungarian context. The aim of our research was to find out what groups and
patterns of homeschooling families are present in Hungary. To our first
research question (What groups and patterns appear in the Hungarian
homeschooling discourse?), the main themes and codes give the answers. The
analysis identified the following themes: religiousness of homeschoolers,
the attitudes of society and schools towards homeschooling, the methods of
homeschooling, the attitude of parents towards schools, and socialization.
The answer to the second research question, – what groups can be created
between the Hungarian home education families and the differences between
them – is partially answered. The “ideological” group clearly exists in
Hungary today and within this group only one subgroup is likely to be a
Christian group. However, we did not receive data for any other subgroups;
so the distinction between groups lost its meaning in this research.
Families participating in the research chose home education for religious
reasons. The society, host school, and teachers are sometimes open, though
they are more likely to be suspicious of these families’ learning form. The
attitude of homeschooling students and parents are clearly positive towards
home education. Parents often formulate negative criticisms of educational
institutions, but they also write about their positive experiences, and
homeschooling families are involved in several socializing events in
different environments. We have partly answered the research question
whether these groups can be categorized as “ideological” and “pedagogical.”
The “ideological” category clearly exists, but we did not see an example of
the “pedagogical” category in this research. However, according to our
informal, personal information (e.g., homeschooling meeting), this category
The main weakness of the research is that those who are blogging from the
Hungarian homeschooling families may be a special group of homeschoolers.
This is probably due to the problem of sample selection, so it is an
important result for later research that the reason for homeschooling
should be considered during sampling process. The main limitations of our
research are the small sample and the lack of Hungary-specific research;
therefore, we cannot compare our results to other Hungarian results.
There has been little research about Hungarian homeschooling. The
regulation of home education – and the private student status in general-
is vague and needs further clarification. Home education in Hungary is a
growing movement and more research has to be done in the future about the
Act CXC of 2011. on National Public Education, s 45(5) and (6)
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This research was supported by the ÚNKP-17-2 New National Excellence
Program of the Ministry of Human Capacities awarded to Noémi Eggendorfer.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Erika Kopp,
Faculty of Education and Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University, Room 409,
23-27 Kazinczy Street, Budapest, 1075. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ¯HSR¯